The tale of the Clever Cockerel

Once upon a time there was a clever cockerel. He lived on a farm with lots of other chickens and cockerels. He was different. He was clever and wiser than the rest of the birds. He was not the highest in the pecking order but he got by. The chicken house was next to the old farm-house and the clever cockerel could see into the farm-house kitchen from his lofty perch on top of the chicken house. He could see the farmer’s wife cleaning the kitchen and preparing the food. He could see the kitchen was always clean as he watched the world around him.

On each Saturday evening he saw the farmer come out of the house and chase the other chickens and cockerels around the yard until he caught one of them. Later in the evening he would see the farmer’s wife pluck and gut the poor unfortunate bird and prepare it for the oven for Sunday lunch. He saw the rest of the food being prepared; the potatoes, the carrots, the cabbage and the peas. This was a regular occurrence he noted. He always made sure he was well out of the way on Saturday evening; he was not going to get caught and end up on the table on Sunday.

Day after day he watched the farmer’s wife prepare the food. The food was yellow, orange, brown and green. Never blue. If it looked at all blue it was not eaten. This he saw time and time again. Blue food was never eaten. This fact did not go unnoticed to his little bird brain as he sat upon his perch overlooking the chicken house.

He looked at all of the other chickens and cockerels. They were all orange and brown. Just the same colours as all the food the farmer’s wife prepared for the farmer to eat. The cabbages in the fields were eaten, the carrots too. Nothing was blue.

Some thoughts were stirring in his little bird brain. What if I could become blue? Then I would not be eaten like the rest of the chickens and cockerels. But, how can I become blue?

He flapped his wings and landed rather ungainly on the ground near the old sheep-dog. “Sheep-dog” he asked in his shrill voice, “How can I become blue?” The sheep-dog opened one eye and thought for a moment before stretching and telling the clever cockerel to follow. “Up there, in those tins is some blue paint. You could knock one down and cover yourself in blue paint but it would be very messy and your feathers would all stick together. You could do that,” was the sheep-dog’s contribution. The clever cockerel thought for a while, thanked the sheep-dog and flew back to his perch on the top of the chicken house. He stayed up all night thinking about blue paint, but the thought of making his feathers all stick together did not appeal to the clever cockerel. Blue paint was a possibility but there must be better options.

The next morning he saw the farm-yard cat, asleep on the hay rick. I will ask the cat what he thinks I can do to make myself blue. The clever cockerel fluttered down to the ground and strode off toward the hay rick to find the farm-yard cat. He had to flap his wings hard to fly up to the top of the hay rick and frightened the cat as he landed. “Sorry, farm-yard cat. I did not mean to make so much noise” said the clever cockerel. “Pah! You noisy bird” said the rather annoyed farm yard cat. “What do you want? You have now completely disturbed my peace and quiet. I was enjoying the morning sunshine after a hard night trying to catch mice. Speak! Speak!”

The clever cockerel flustered his feathers and raised his head high as he asked “Farm yard cat, how can I become blue? You know, blue all over.” The farm yard cat thought for a while, rolled over and thought some more. He looked at the clever cockerel and said “You need to wait for winter and go for a very long walk in the snow. Ha! Ha! You will be blue with cold then” he laughed at the clever cockerel for wanting to be blue. “Now go away and let me sleep. You have disturbed me enough. Go!” With that, the farm yard cat rolled over and went back to sleep. Wait for winter and go for a long walk in the snow. I don’t want to wait that long thought the clever cockerel as he go ready to flap his wings and try to fly back to his perch on the top of the chicken house.

The clever cockerel did not think very much of the idea. I do not want to wait until winter and I do not want to get that cold. There must be another way he thought to himself. He thought and thought for several days. He thought long and hard. Someone must have the answer to my question. He eventually decided that he was going to have to leave the farm yard and the chicken house that he called home ad go off on an adventure to find out how to become blue. He knew he would need to fly a little further than he had before so he practised flying around the farm yard, up on to the hay rick and all of the way up on to the top of the big barn. It hurt his chest muscles to go up to the top of the big barn but he knew he would need to start from there as it was the highest point for miles around.

He practised flying to the top of the barn and crowing each morning. As he was crowing he was looking to see where he would fly off to when the time was right. The days went by as he became stronger and he was less puffed-out each time he flew to the top of the barn. This particular morning it was nice and sunny as the clever cockerel thought to himself – today is the day. Today I will fly over the barn and away to the woods. I will find someone who can tell me how I can become blue. He flew up to the top of the barn, paused for breath and flew off towards the woods. I am free! He thought to himself as he landed on the edge of the woods. I am free!

As he walked through the woods he met some of the woodland animals. He would ask them all, in turn “I want to become blue, do you know how I can become blue?” None of them could give him any answers so he walked deeper into the woods. It became darker and darker under the trees and darker still as night fell. The clever cockerel felt very alone and very afraid as he could hear rustling in the bushes around him. By now it was completely dark. He could hear birds flying through the trees above him. “Birds?” he said to himself “birds don’t fly in the woods at night. Hey! You birds flying in the woods. What are you?” There was a light fluttering beside him. “We are not birds, we are bats. We can fly at night. What do you want?” asked the bat. “I want to become blue” said the clever cockerel, “do you know how I can become blue?” he asked.

The bat scratched his head with the claw on one wing. He looked thoughtful for a long time before he said “I think I know someone who may be able to help you. In a cavern far, far, from here lives an old lady who some call a witch. She will know how to make you blue. Come with me, I will take you to her.” The clever cockerel tried to follow the agile bat by walking through the dense woodland. He was getting left behind but the bat waited by hanging in a tree for the clever cockerel to catch up. As the sun started to rise the bat said “I need to go home to my roost for the day to sleep. You must rest here in the mouth of this cave. You will be safe here, I will see you again when the sun has gone down and we will continue our journey to see the witch.” The clever cockerel thanked the bat and wished him a good sleep.

The clever cockerel scratched around for some food and then settled down for a long rest. He knew the coming night would be a long one. He slept for most of the day and was awakened at sunset by the sound of the bats leaving the sanctuary of their cave. The bats were all flying off into the sunset in search of their breakfast. One called to the clever cockerel “This way! Follow me!” The cockerel followed the bat into the woods to continue his journey. After many hours of travelling the clever cockerel was getting tired. “We’ll soon be there” piped the bat as they came to a clearing in the woods. “There, see the little curl of smoke from that little hut. That is where the witch lives. She will help you.” “Thank you bat” said the clever cockerel as he strode across the clearing to the little hut.

He tapped on the door of the little hut with his beak. “Hello” he said “anyone there?” After a few seconds silence the door creaked open. “Who wants to know?” asked the little old lady. “I am the clever cockerel from the farm many leagues to the east” he said “I come to you with a question.” “What do you want to know?” asked the witch. “Can you make me blue?” asked the clever cockerel. “Why do you want to become blue?” asked the witch. “It is a long story” said the clever cockerel, “can I come in?” The witch opened the creaky door a little more and ushered the clever cockerel inside her little hut.

The old witch pulled a colourful knitted blanket over her shoulders as she sat down in her armchair by the fire. A large frog jumped up onto her lap and she started to stroke the frog. She looked at the clever cockerel and asked “what is your story, why do you wish to become blue?” The cockerel started on his tale of farmyard life and seeing the farmer’s wife preparing food and then how he was seeking advice as to how he could become blue, because nobody ever ate anything that was blue. “You are right” said the witch, “nobody eats anything that is blue. You might have made a wise decision to become blue. I think I can help you.” She sat ad thought for a very long time. The embers of the fire were getting very low and the little hut was becoming cold. Suddenly the witch stood up, the frog jumped off and hopped into its bed. “I have it!” said the witch, “I can make you blue! Let me see know, what will I need?” The witch rummaged around in her little pantry, went out into the clearing and found some strange looking plants. All of these things she put into the pot above her fire. She stoked the fire until the contents of the pot boiled and bubbled. “You know” she said “it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to put you in the pot too, but I won’t. You are a clever, wise cockerel; it would be a shame to eat you even though I am hungry.” She emptied some of the bubbling mixture from the pot into a bowl and told the clever cockerel to eat the mixture. “It might take some time to work’ she said “better get some sleep now.”

The clever cockerel laid down beside the frog as the little old witch shuffled off to bed. “We will see what has happened to you in the morning. Sleep well.” They all fell fast asleep and were woken in the morning by the birds singing outside the little door of the witches hut. The witch opened the door and fed the birds with stale bread crumbs. The light from the open door filled the room. The clever cockerel looked down at himself and saw that the feathers around his neck and wings were blue. He jumped up and down with glee. “I’m blue, I’m blue” he squawked at the top of his voice. He could not believe it, he was blue. He tried to ‘cock-a-doodle-do’ but couldn’t. Just a loud squawk came out of his beak. The witch came back in to see what all the noise was about. “I’m blue” he said. “I’ve lost my ‘cock-a-doodle-do’ and just have this raucous squawk, but I’m blue! Thank you witch, thank you a million times” he said as he tried to hug the witch.

The witch looked proudly at the clever cockerel. “You have lost your cock’s comb, but never mind, you have a little crown of feathers with blue ends. You look magnificent, I am proud of you. Give me a twirl. Let me see all of you.” The clever cockerel stood very tall and did a little dance around to show off all of his blue feathers. “You are certainly very beautifully blue” said the witch. “Thank you” said the clever cockerel. He strutted about with his chest puffed out. As he swung round and round in circles he noticed that his tail was getting longer and longer. His tail was dragging along the floor behind him. He stopped and lifted it up. He then spread it out like a very large fan. “My, Oh, My!” he exclaimed. “Look at my tail, it is beautiful.”

“I have given you a lovely large set of tail feathers and they have many eyes in them. This is so that you can see anything coming that may wish you harm. Also, I do not want my lovely creation to be harmed. You may fly back to your farm and impress your lady friends. Look after you fine tail feathers my friend, look after yourself and enjoy life” said the witch as she waved good-bye to the clever cockerel. “Good-bye witch and thank you, thank you a million times” shouted the clever cockerel as he flew off into the distance.

And, dear readers, that is how the peacock got its blue colour and its wonderful tail feathers.

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